For many, the E38 represents the zenith of large German executive sedans. It took the best ingredients of the E32 and E34 designs, slimmed them down a touch visually, updated the power plants and equipment, and Voila! Instant classic. It didn’t hurt that the E38 also played a starring role in two pretty popular movies in the period, either – but let’s be honest, you’d have loved it anyway.
As with Audi’s D2, early examples of the E38 were already in production in 1994, but the best of the bunch came towards the end of production. LCI models hit showrooms in 1999, and the refreshed look is what you see here. The long, low package was best expressed with the optional M Parallel wheels, which had carried over from models like the E31 8-Series and E34 M5. It imbued the 7-Series with just enough sport to look purposeful, but not so much as to masquerade as a Porsche. Lightly flared arches cut high in the front fenders were finally filled out, and the refreshed looks worked really well in light colors. Today’s example is just that – an Alpine White long-wheelbase example. But the spectacular looks are not only its base attributes in this case, as this particular example has a scant 13,000 miles since new:
The E38 7-series is perhaps the last classically handsome BMW. Its conservative, purposeful design has aged well and serves as poignant reminder of how things used to be, before the advent of Chris Bangle’s fussy futurism. Plutocratically expensive when new, today you can buy an early, high mileage, rough-around-the-edges example for a mere couple of grand. But the question is – would you want to? A $2k car that cost nearly $100k new is bound to be a ticking time bomb of wallet-rending catastrophe. To get a nice one you have to spend a little (but not too much) to get a lot (quite a lot, in fact). Around $10k will buy you a nicely sorted example – still not a lot of money, when you think about it – and just a smidge more will put you into a Sport model, like this one.
It’s nice to back away from some of the more exotically priced cars from time to time and look at a more reasonably priced enthusiast car like the E36 M3. For under $10,000, you can still find some pretty good examples of the breed and they offer a lot of bang for the proverbial buck with plenty of aftermarket support and an enthusiastic community full of model-specific hacks. Let’s take a look at another wildly colored example that caught my eye this week – one of the claimed 88 Byzanz Metallic Sedans imported: